It's no secret that there's too much money in politics and that special interests wield too much power in California. Proponents of Proposition 32 contend that it's a bipartisan proposal to help solve these problems. In reality, however, Prop 32 would make matters much worse in California, because it would give one set of special interests — corporations — a huge, unfair advantage over another — unions, and thus would favor Republican candidates while harming Democrats.
Over the past few decades, a series of unfortunate court decisions has greatly boosted the amount of money in politics and forced both political parties to increasingly depend on wealthy donors, corporations, and unions to win elections. Political candidates seeking state or national office simply can no longer afford to depend on small donors when their competitors' campaign war chests are overflowing with special interest money. At the same time, Republicans throughout the nation have increasingly come to rely on corporate money while Democrats have depended on organized labor. And that's why Prop 32 is so unfair. It would effectively silence the voice of unions in California, and would slash major funding for Democrats — while essentially leaving corporations and Republicans alone.
How? Prop 32 would force each union to get the written consent of every member of that union before spending union dues (the only money unions have) on political campaigns. That might not sound all that bad, but think about the ramifications for a moment. What if government were prohibited from spending money on programs or services until each citizen gave his or her written consent? It would be impossible, right? That government would cease to function, because some citizens would disagree with how their tax dollars were being used and so would refuse to give consent.
Yet some backers of Prop 32 contend that it's even-handed because both corporations and unions would be prohibited from making donations directly to political candidates. In truth, however, corporations would still be free to donate to so-called independent expenditure committees and Super PACs in order to elect the candidates they want, but unions would not.
Wealthy right-wing special interests, including the billionaire Koch brothers, realize the big advantage that Prop 32 will give to Republicans and corporations, and that's why they're spending millions to get it passed. In fact, they've been trying to enact similar laws in California for the past two decades. State voters have rejected such measures before, and we strongly urge them to do so again.
We also are strongly urging a "no" vote on Proposition 35. Much like Prop 32, this measure seems reasonable at first glance: It purports to crack down on human and sex trafficking in California. In reality, however, Prop 35 is badly written and overly broad, and thus could ensnare people who are not engaged in trafficking at all — a sex worker's partner, parent, or child — or even her landlord. And not only could Prop 35 send these innocent people to prison, but it could be force them to forfeit their property to the government and, in some instances, require them to register as sex offenders for life.
There's no doubt that trafficking minors for prostitution is abhorrent. And if Prop 35 only addressed that problem, we would wholeheartedly support it. But, as written, the proposition is backward thinking and harms adults who have nothing to do with child prostitution. As our cover story "Redefining Sex Work" showed last week, an increasing number of smart, assertive, well-educated people, especially in the Bay Area, have freely chosen to become sex workers during the past few decades. These adults are part of the Bay's growing sex-positive culture. But Prop 35 would likely force these consenting adults back underground — force them to hide from the rest of world. And that's wrong. Law enforcement does not belong in our bedrooms.
In Richmond, progressive environmentalists have been battling Chevron for years, trying to bring an end to the oil giant's control over City Hall. Finally, in 2010, progressive environmentalists gained the upper hand, winning a majority on the Richmond City Council. But this fall, Chevron is attempting to reestablish its tight grip on the city and is spending more than $1 million on behalf of three candidates who the oil company believes will be friendly to its desires.
Not surprisingly, we're not endorsing any of the Chevron-backed politicos (Councilman Nat Bates and candidates Gary Bell and Bea Roberson). Instead, we strongly urge Richmond voters to cast their ballots for Councilman Tom Butt and candidates Marilyn Langlois and Eduardo Martinez. Butt has long been a smart, progressive independent voice on the Richmond council. In fact, we think he's one of the best political leaders in the East Bay. And we think that, as members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Langlois and Martinez will be good additions to the council and will help Richmond continue its renaissance.
In June, we endorsed Abel Guillen in the 18th Assembly District primary. We identify strongly with the Peralta Community Colleges trustee's progressive ideals. And while we also like his liberal competitor, Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, we could think of no reason not to endorse Guillen again this fall.
And finally, in the two East Bay races for the BART board of directors this November, we endorse Rebecca Saltzman for District 3 and Maria Alegria for District 7. We think Saltzman, a progressive environmentalist who works for the California League of Conservation Voters, will make a great addition to the BART board. She's smart, extremely well informed, and will work hard to improve BART's day-to-day operations. As for Alegria, the former mayor of Pinole is also well versed in transportation issues, having served on the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority and the Western Contra Costa Transit Authority, and we think she will effectively refocus District 7 to the needs of the East Bay. Incumbent Lynette Sweet has been preoccupied for too long on the small San Francisco portion of the district.
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